ISLAMABAD: The joint opposition in the Parliament Thursday termed the passage of 33 bills from the joint session of Parliament ‘worse than a martial law’ and announced it would not accept the laws passed by the selected government.
“What happened yesterday will go down as a black day in Pakistan’s history, where a red line was crossed by the government and the world saw the worst demonstration of Pakistan’s government pass controversial, polarising legislation with an artificial majority, created by coercion and carrots,” said parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman, Secretary General PMLN Ahsan Iqbal, Shahida Akhtar Ali of the JUIF and PMLN Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb while addressing a press conference outside the Parliament House here.
PMLN Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said there was information that the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) chairman was allegedly using organisational resources and data for the government’s campaign for the upcoming elections. “If Nadra is found leaking national data to the government, they will be liable to face treason charges.”
Ahsan Iqbal said it was the blackest day in the history of Parliament, expressing the hope that the courts would now uphold the Constitution and in line with the Opposition’s aims to challenge the bills in the court.
He said: “The Election Commission is a major stakeholder; it is responsible for holding free and fair elections,” he said, adding that by passing the laws, the government had build the grounds for “rigging the next elections”.
He said they were vulnerable to rigging even if they did not operate online. “The machines will work under the government’s supervision, they can be tampered with,” he said. Ahsan said the daughters of Kashmir are screaming and government was giving an ‘NRO’ to the Indian spy. He said the passage of the bill related to Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav, in the presence of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, was a “blot” on the Parliament.
“The International Court of Justice is saying that Pakistan will decide for itself how to give the right to appeal to Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav, the right to appeal was already there then whom do they want to please?” Ahsan said the autonomy of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) was at stake and that the government was aiming to bulldoze legislation regarding the central bank.
He said that Wednesday was a dark day when the speaker bulldozed the constitution and democratic values and the next election had been made controversial; now any election would be controversial. “All the objections and reservations of the Election Commission have been bulldozed. The voter list cannot be transferred to Nadra,” he said.
He said by bringing the voter list under the control of the government, it has laid the foundation for fraud. “Nadra could use data for the win of the government,” he said. PPP’s Sherry Rehman said despite contested counting, in a joint session held together by scores of sergeants at arms to protect a partisan speaker, they went ahead to bulldoze their bills amid protests, in one of the worst subversions of parliamentary democracy Pakistan had ever seen.
She said these bills were bulldozed after the speaker had assured the opposition parliamentarians that all bills in the joint session and ordinances promulgated would be discussed in a parliamentary committee. “Why did he go back on his words? Because the government finds his reputation dispensable,” she added.
The PPP vice president said “let it also be put on record that no election law has ever been passed parliament in Pakistan without consensus among all stakeholders. “No election can be held on these laws as this is a recipe for sowing chaos in Pakistan. Political engineering of this kind has yielded disastrous results for Pakistan before as well, but the country has never been as weak and divided as today. Further machinations may take a terrible toll,” she added.
Senator Sherry Rehman said the most controversial bills also include the law which would allow the use of EVMs in the elections and that had been done despite ECP’s categorical warnings that it was impossible to forgo hacking and tampering with the EVMs in the elections. “By allowing the use of these machines, the government has already made the elections controversial,” she added.
She said the opposition was not ‘scared of technology’ obviously, but the EVM technology was clearly being set up as a doorway to rigging polls, while the voter lists going to a government department like Nadra [National Database and Registration Authority] was a macabre joke, which would not survive any independent scrutiny or judicial appeal to reverse.
She said it could not be used for the next general elections on the whims of the government as the project was not even financially viable as there were approximately 100,000 polling stations and 400,000 polling booths. If separate machines were used for National Assembly and provincial assembly elections, then 900,000 machines would be required, which would approximately cost Rs150 billion and Rs1.5-2 lakh each. “Do we have this kind of money to waste? The taxpayers’ money is not for dubious political engineering projects,” she added.
She said the EVMs were being imposed on the nation despite the Election Commission’s consistent disagreement. “Though it is quite obvious that without the forced attendance of allies and members, the EVM bill would not have passed, but nervous and isolated governments do bizarre things, and in doing so get further exposed,” she said.
She said Germany, Italy and the US have already rejected the EVMs, but the government was adamant to go ahead with them. “Why are they so scared of the votes? The truth is that people have rejected them,” she said. Sherry said what happened on Wednesday was an attempt by the government to steal the upcoming elections and now all the institutes had been paralysed by the government.
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